YAMAHA AVENTAGE RX-A3080

AV re­ceiver with Mu­sicCast

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The top Yamaha in­te­grated re­ceiver has nine chan­nels plus the Mu­sicCast multiroom plat­form – and it comes with an Alexa Dot for voice con­trol.

Yamaha’s lat­est top-of-the-line Aventage in­te­grated AV re­ceiver has now dropped. The Aventage RX-A3080 sees es­sen­tially the same per­for­mance as last year’s RX-A3070, but with some wel­come enhancements.

Equip­ment

The am­pli­fiers them­selves here ap­pear to be the same that Yamaha has used for a few years. There are nine of them and they’re rated at 150 watts per chan­nel into eight ohms, two chan­nels driven. Or 165 watts into six ohms, two chan­nels driven. In both cases that’s across the full au­di­ble band­width at just 0.06% dis­tor­tion. In the lat­ter case you must select the lower im­ped­ance op­tion in the ‘Ad­vanced Setup’ menu.

As is Yamaha’s habit, the front stereo chan­nels also sup­port four-ohm speak­ers with this set­ting, but the other chan­nels are lim­ited to a min­i­mum of six ohms. Clearly, that rules out the use of quite a few speaker sys­tems, par­tic­u­larly some Euro­pean ranges.

But it does pro­vide all you need for Dolby At­mos/ DTS:X with 5.1.4 or 7.1.2 chan­nels us­ing the built-in am­pli­fiers. And it has pro­cess­ing for more, so you can choose to up­grade (ei­ther now or later) to four over-head speak­ers in 7.1.4 con­fig­u­ra­tion, by adding two ex­ter­nal chan­nels of am­pli­fi­ca­tion.

Flex­i­ble re­di­rect­ion ca­pa­bil­i­ties are also pro­vided, in­clud­ing the abil­ity to use two of the amps for driv­ing a sec­ond zone. Dig­i­tal au­dio de­cod­ing is handed by ESS SabrePRO ES9026PRO Ul­tra and Sabre ES9007S DACs.

This year Yamaha has dropped the HDMI in­put from the front panel, so re­duc­ing the to­tal count to seven. But all sup­port the high­est cur­rent stan­dards. There are two HDMI out­puts. Pre­vi­ously one was as­sign­a­ble to a sec­ond zone, but this time around there’s a ded­i­cated sec­ond zone HDMI out­put.

Still on the front panel is the USB con­nec­tion and two ana­logue au­dio RCA sock­ets. I hope they stay into the fu­ture. A front-panel ana­logue au­dio con­nec­tion is a use­ful thing to have.

Last year saw the in­tro­duc­tion of a pair of bal­anced XLR ana­logue au­dio in­puts. This year sees the ad­di­tion of bal­anced XLR out­puts for the front stereo chan­nels on the 7.2 pre-outs. There are also RCA sock­ets for those chan­nels.

Yamaha is one of the few com­pa­nies that in­cludes a DAB+ ra­dio tuner built in (along with FM, but not AM). For stream­ing it has Eth­er­net and 802.11ac dual-band Wi-Fi net­work­ing, plus Blue­tooth with sup­port for the SBC and

AAC codecs. And there’s Yamaha’s Mu­sicCast plat­form on­board, which de­liv­ers the abil­ity to stream mu­sic from in­ter­net ser­vices un­der app con­trol, and to work as part of a multiroom net­work with other Mu­sicCast speak­ers (and thanks to Mu­sicCast’s abil­ity to broad­cast via Blue­tooth, also to other brands of Blue­tooth speak­ers within range).

And you will want to get things net­worked, be­cause in­cluded with the re­ceiver here in Aus­tralia is an Echo Dot, the small­est of smart speaker and mi­cro­phone sys­tems that works with the Ama­zon Alexa ecosys­tem.

Set­ting up

There’s no real set-up wiz­ard, as such, with Yamaha re­ceivers, but there’s a mini-wiz­ard on first switch-on, ask­ing you to con­nect to the net­work. Which goes to show how very net­work-cen­tric home theatre re­ceivers are these days. I chose the Wi-Fi op­tion, and then se­lected the iOS setup op­tion. You can do it in sev­eral other more com­pli­cated ways if you pre­fer. The re­ceiver took maybe 20 sec­onds be­fore it was ready to start, but once it was ready, it was just a mat­ter of find­ing the re­ceiver in the iPad Mini’s Wi-Fi set­tings as a po­ten­tial Air­Play speaker, se­lect­ing it and agree­ing to use it. A few sec­onds later it was done and the sys­tem re­turned to the same de­fault back­ground that Yamaha has been us­ing for as long as I can re­mem­ber: a stylish shot of the iron frame of a Yamaha grand pi­ano, de­liv­ered at 1080p res­o­lu­tion.

An­other mini-wiz­ard guides you through speaker set-up, which is called YMAO, but you have to man­u­ally start it by plug­ging in the cal­i­bra­tion mi­cro­phone. You can mea­sure up to eight po­si­tions, or just do one if you pre­fer. This re­ceiver comes with the tetra­he­dral mea­sure­ment rig which al­lows the re­ceiver to de­ter­mine the an­gle of each speaker, in ad­di­tion to the dis­tance. That should al­low more ac­cu­rate de­cod­ing and place­ment of Dolby At­mos and DTS:X ‘ob­jects’.

YMAO was a bit too kind to my loud­speak­ers, nice as all of them are. It de­cided that all but the rear over­heads were ‘Large’. Af­ter it had fin­ished I went back to man­ual set­tings and fixed the sizes and crossovers. While there, I dug around and con­firmed that the two sub­woofer out­puts can act as dual mono, or be set to front and rear, or to left and right.

“in­cluded with Yamaha’s re­ceiver here in Aus­tralia is an Echo Dot, the small­est smart speaker and mi­cro­phone sys­tem that works with the Ama­zon Alexa ecosys­tem.”

And if you love your stereo mu­sic, con­sider us­ing the ‘Set­ting Pat­tern’ op­tion to cre­ate a sec­ond Pat­tern con­sist­ing only of front left and right speak­ers (and per­haps sub­woofer). Then you can use Yamaha’s ‘Scene’ fea­ture to switch eas­ily from pure stereo to mul­ti­chan­nel with just a sin­gle key.

At one point when I pressed the set-up but­ton, the re­ceiver in­formed me that a new firmware was avail­able (and said it would take about twenty min­utes to com­plete). It only took about nine min­utes.

In­ci­den­tally, the set-up menu has re­ceived the same re­work­ing we no­ticed with the RX-1080 last is­sue, the first for sev­eral years. If you’re used to Yamaha’s way of do­ing things, you may take a short time to ad­just, but ev­ery­thing is still there. In­struc­tions have been added to help you use the re­ceiver with­out ref­er­ence to the man­ual, although some can be less than in­for­ma­tive. For ex­am­ple, you can choose from three DAC dig­i­tal fil­ter set­tings (sharp and slow roll-off and low la­tency). This, ac­cord­ing to the on-screen prompts, al­lows you to choose the fil­ter ‘to have fa­vorite sounds.’

I’m be­ing un­fair. How many home theatre re­ceivers do you know that al­low this high-end DAC func­tion­al­ity at all?

You can also ad­just some set­tings and con­trols through a built-web page, although you can’t ex­er­cise day to day con­trol this way.

A cou­ple of fi­nal things. The re­ceiver switches on ‘YPAO Vol­ume’ by de­fault. That’s one of those su­per­charged ‘Loud­ness’ con­trols. Find it in the ‘Op­tions’ menu and switch it off. To be fair, it’s rel­a­tively mild in op­er­a­tion, but still best avoided. It also de­faults to nine-

chan­nel stereo on some in­puts, in­clud­ing Blue­tooth. Once you change it to some­thing sen­si­ble the change will stick. Also, look to see if the en­hancer func­tion is on. It didn’t make much dif­fer­ence, but for rea­sons of pu­rity, it’s best switched off.

Stereo mu­sic

I loved the sound us­ing this re­ceiver (once I’d set things aright with choos­ing the best de­cod­ing). Par­tic­u­larly for stereo work. I set up a ‘Scene’ which would in­voke the ‘Pat­tern 2’ speaker set­tings, which I’d set to front two chan­nels only, with no EQ or any other pro­cess­ing.

This should be done — set­ting up Scenes I mean — be­cause rather than have in­put se­lec­tion but­tons on the re­mote, it has eight Scene but­tons. (In­puts can still be se­lected, but only by ar­row­ing through them.) Scenes in­volve a lit­tle ex­tra work at the start, but be­come su­per easy to use there­after. Whether movie or mu­sic, the re­ceiver ex­er­cised seem­ingly lim­it­less au­thor­ity over the speak­ers, with enor­mous re­serves avail­able.

I re­main am­biva­lent about the new Sur­round:AI fea­ture, which pur­ports to cre­ate the best sur­round field based on pro­files Yamaha has de­vel­oped. In gen­eral I just use Dolby Sur­round to al­low any in­her­ent height in­for­ma­tion in nor­mal sur­round au­dio to be ex­tracted and used.

Net­work mu­sic per­formed su­perbly, in­clud­ing the play­back of ripped DTS-CDs. Well, nor­mally. That au­dio went berserk in Pure Di­rect mode, seem­ingly be­ing a mix­ture of un­de­coded DTS-noise and de­coded DTS sig­nal. The re­ceiver sup­ports dou­ble-speed and quad-speed DSD, as well as PCM (in the guise of WAV, AIFF or FLAC) up to 384kHz sam­pling. The man­ual says that 384 and 352.8kHz sig­nals are down­sam­pled to hal­frate ex­cept when Pure Di­rect mode is in play. It was un­clear whether that meant they wouldn’t play at all in Pure Di­rect, but they seemed to.

All the other net­work stuff worked per­fectly. I could use the Mu­sicCast app to send mu­sic to the re­ceiver, or my choice of DLNA apps. Air­Play worked. Spo­tify Con­nect worked too.

Ama­zon Alexa? Set­ting up went smoothly, if rather te­diously, with a few sign-ups to the things like Yamaha’s ‘Con­nect ID’. You need to do things like that to give Alexa the nec­es­sary ‘Skill’ to talk to the Mu­sicCast app. All that done, be­ing able to do any­thing use­ful was hit or miss. I could change the vol­ume — ‘Alexa,’ I’d say, ‘ask Mu­sicCast to turn up the vol­ume in the of­fice.’ — and the vol­ume would ad­vance (by 8dB!). Like­wise, I could ask Alexa to ask Mu­sicCast to switch off the of­fice. But when­ever I’d ask Alexa to ask Mu­sicCast to play mu­sic ‘in the of­fice’, it would re­spond that it couldn’t find a speaker called ‘the of­fice’.

But I’m no Alexa ex­pert. For the mo­ment, voice con­trol hasn’t quite caught up to sim­ply tap­ping on but­tons on an app. But it’s a start, and who knows how it might de­velop. And we hope they (and oth­ers) broaden sup­port to Google and per­haps Siri, so con­sumers don’t face a kind of voice-con­trol for­mat war choice.

Video pro­cess­ing

By de­fault the re­ceiver just passes through what­ever video it re­ceives. That pass-through in­cluded Ul­traHD at 60p with BT.2020 and HDR, and also Ul­traHD with Dolby Vi­sion. It over­lays things like the vol­ume con­trol, when you’re ad­just­ing it, or the con­text-sen­si­tive ‘Op­tion’ menu onto what­ever is play­ing (even 2160p/60). There didn’t seem to be an op­tion to switch off the over­lay, which is un­for­tu­nate. Some­times you want to be able to change vol­ume with­out an on-screen in­di­ca­tion.

Con­clu­sion

The Yamaha Aventage RX-A3080 con­tin­ues the tra­di­tion of Yamaha’s top-of-the-line home theatre re­ceiver: solid per­for­mance, fine fa­cil­i­ties and sat­is­fy­ing user ex­pe­ri­ence.

Stephen Daw­son

Yamaha Aventage RX-A3080AV re­ceiver with Mu­sicCast

Seven HDMI in­puts (the front panel one has gone), plus plenty of ana­logue and dig­i­tal au­dio, in­clud­ing a turntable in­put, and an in­ter­nal FM/DAB+ tuner. Yamaha’s Mu­sicCast plat­form al­lows both stream­ing and on­line mu­sic ser­vices. There’s Blue­tooth, AirPla

In­puts Stream­ing Speaker out­puts

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